PIANIST - COMPOSER – ARRANGER - CLINICIAN
BIG BAND JAZZ and CONCERT BAND
Much to his initial dismay, Jerry was introduced to the old school piano curriculum of proper hand position, scales, arpeggios, and sight reading. All classical and no jazz or pop music. This started right from the beginning of his musical education, and for a five-year-old whose goal in life was to play baseball for his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, this was unbearable. In the years that followed, as a final gesture of cruelty, his piano instructor, who was obviously not content to see him merely suffer, added the greatest torture of all - a book of horrors called Solfeggio. Even on a hot summer’s day with no air conditioning in his home, he shut doors and windows so that none of his friends, who were out and about playing the venerated game of baseball in the lot next door could hear him struggling to sing the correct pitches, syllables and rhythms. Somehow he lived through it all, falling back on the axiom that “what does not kill us, makes us stronger. He still laments however, that he never did get to play for the Bucs. At the risk of incurring the dreaded words “told you so,” those courses of study would have an immense impact on his future successes. Time would see different interests in styles and instruments.
In 1970, Jerry began his undergraduate work at the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. His major instrument was French Horn, but was still very active as a pianist, playing in the highly touted jazz ensembles directed by Tony Leonardi. Jerry remembers, “....the Dana faculty was rich with extraordinary musicians such as Tony Leonardi, Esotto Pellegrini, Robert Fleming and Joe Edwards to name but a few.” In particular, he gives special mention to his horn instructor, Professor William Slocum. Jerry continues saying “...true, I put the horn aside and piano became my mode of expression. It was a painful decision to do so, however the essence of each lesson with Bill Slocum has become an indispensable element of my comprehensive approach to music and life. Early on, I didn’t understand what a mentor was, but my association with Bill Slocum granted me in later years, full comprehension of what a mentor truly is.”
In 1977, Jerry made the decision to join the United States Navy. His first duty station was The United States Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Maryland. For three years he was the assistant principal horn with the Naval Academy Concert Band. At this juncture, his focus on the piano increased. He began performing with the Naval Academy’s big band jazz ensemble, “The Next Wave.” This group would have a profound impact on Jerry’s future and the change of direction to jazz had begun.
The true turning point of Jerry’s career came in 1980. He auditioned for and won the piano position with “The Commodores” of The United States Navy Band in Washington, D.C. For the next 17 years he was part of the fiery rhythm section that helped propel this tremendous jazz ensemble. Jerry writes, “having the opportunity to share the stage with legends such as Marvin Stamm, Milt Hinton, Snooky Young, Chris Vadala, Pete Christlieb, Ernie Watts, Bob Florence and many more was the very heart of my motivation." From 1989 to 1997, Jerry was the leader and musical director of the “Commodores.” 1997 saw dramatic changes in his musical direction, when he left the Commodores and accepted the position of piano soloist with the Navy Concert Band. During those next eight years, another mentor would nurture Jerry's continuted musical evolution.
“In the eight years as leader of the Commodores,” Jerry remembers, “trumpeter Marvin Stamm, with whom I’d worked on many occasions asked me to do a big band arrangement of “My Foolish Heart” to feature him. I did this and many more arrangements for him including orchestral writing as well. He suggested that I do a big band CD of the favorite arrangements that I’d done not only for him but also for others. I gave this considerable thought and realized this was going to be a great project.”
All About Jazz
On a Desert Island With You (article)
“Beautiful Love” CD featuring Marvin Stamm has been spotlighted on major jazz radio stations in the U.S., England, Germany, and Australia.
Jerry’s big band, orchestral compositions and arrangements are played by Marvin Stamm at major universities and orchestras across the United States and in Europe.
The concert band compositions and arrangements of Jerry have been performed by The United States Navy Band in Washington D.C., The United States Marine Band (The President’s Own), The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own) and the US Army Field Band (Fort Meade, Maryland)